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The Four Books of Architecture

The Four Books of Architecture

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by Andrea Palladio

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Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) was one of the most celebrated architects of the Renaissance, so important that the term Palladian has been applied to a particular style of architecture that adheres to classical concepts. The wide spread of Palladianism was due partly to the private and public buildings he constructed in Italy, the designs of which were copied


Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) was one of the most celebrated architects of the Renaissance, so important that the term Palladian has been applied to a particular style of architecture that adheres to classical concepts. The wide spread of Palladianism was due partly to the private and public buildings he constructed in Italy, the designs of which were copied throughout Europe. But of even greater consequence was his remarkable magnum opus, "I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura"; translated into every major Western European language in the two centuries following its publication in 1570, it has been one of the most influential books in the history of architecture.
The Four Books of Architecture offers a compendium of Palladio's art and of the ancient Roman structures that inspired him. The First Book is devoted to building materials and techniques and the five orders of architecture: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite. Palladio indicates the characteristic features of each order and supplies illustrations of various architectural details. The Second Book deals with private houses and mansions, almost all of Palladio's own design. Shown and described are many of his villas in and near Venice and Vicenza (including the famous Villa Capra, or "The Rotunda," the Thiene Palace, and the Valmarana Palace). Each plate gives a front view drawing of the building and the general floor plan. The Third Book is concerned with streets, bridges, piazzas, and basilicas, most of which are of ancient Roman origin. In the Fourth Book, Palladio reproduces the designs of a number of ancient Roman temples. Plates 51 to 60 are plans and architectural sketches of the Pantheon.
In all, the text is illustrated by over 200 magnificently engraved plates, showing edifices, either of Palladio's own design or reconstructed (in these drawings) by him from classical ruins and contemporary accounts.
All the original plates are reproduced in this new single-volume edition in full size and in clear, sharp detail. This is a republication of the Isaac Ware English edition of 1738. Faithful and accurate in the translation and in its reproduction of the exquisite original engravings, it has long been a rare, sought-after work. This edition makes The Four Books available for the first time in more than 200 years to the English-speaking public.

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The Four Books of Architecture

By Andrea Palladio

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1965 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-13292-1


Of the several particulars that ought to be consider'd and prepar'd before we begin to build.

GREAT care ought to be taken, before a building is begun, of the several parts of the plan and elevation of the whole edifice intended to be raised : For three things, according to VITRUVIUS, ought to be considered in every fabrick, without which no edifice will deserve to be commended; and these are utility or convenience, duration and beauty. That work therefore cannot be called perfect which should be useful and not durable, or durable and not useful, or having both these should be without beauty.

AN edifice may be esteemed commodious, when every part or member stands in its due place and fit situation, neither above or below its dignity and use; or when the loggia's, halls, chambers, cellars and granaries are conveniently disposed, and in their proper places.

THE strength, or duration, depends upon the walls being carried directly upright, thicker below than above, and their foundations strong and solid: observing to place the upper columns directly perpendicular over those that are underneath, and the openings of the doors and windows exactly over one another; so that the solid be upon the solid, and the void over the void.

BEAUTY will result from the form and correspondence of the whole, with respect to the several parts, of the parts with regard to each other, and of these again to the whole; that the structure may appear an entire and compleat body, wherein each member agrees with the other, and all necessary to compose what you intend to form.

WHEN those several particulars have been duly examined upon the model or draught, then an exact calculation ought to be made of the whole expence, and a timely provision made of the money, and of those materials that shall seem most necessary, to the end that nothing may be wanting, or prevent the compleating of the work. In so doing, the builder will not only be commended; but it will also be of the utmost advantage to the whole structure, if the walls are equally and expeditiously carried up : for being thus dispatch'd, they will fettle proportionably, every where alike, and not be subject to those clefts so commonly found in buildings that have been finish'd at divers times.

THEREFORE, having made choice of the most skilful artists that can be had, by whose advice the work may the more judiciously be carried on, you must then provide a sufficient quantity of timber, stone, sand, lime and metals; concerning which provision I intend to lay down some very useful directions. There must also be a suffisient number of joysts, to frame the floors of the halls and chambers; which ought to be disposed and placed in such a manner, that the distance betwixt each joyst may be the width of one joyst and an half when they are framed together.

You must likewise observe, that when the jambs of doors and windows are to be made, not to chuse stones bigger than a fifth, or less than a fixth part of the void or opening. And if you intend to adorn the building with columns or pilasters, make the bases, capitals, and architraves of stone, and the other parts of brick.

WITH respect to the walls, care must be taken, as they are raised, that they may proportionably be diminished in the thickness. Which observation, if rightly applied, may be of singular service, and enable you to make a truer estimate of the charge, and avoid great part of the expence.

BUT as I shall treat more distinctly of these several particulars under their respective heads, this general hint may suffice at present, and may serve as a sketch of the whole fabrick.

THE same regard is likewise to be had to the quality and goodness of those materials, that the best may be chosen. The experience gained from the buildings of others, will very much help to determine what is fit and expedient to be done.

AND although VITRUVIUS, LEON BAPTISTA ALBERTI, and other excellent writers, have laid down very useful rules with respect to the choice of the materials, I shall nevertheless take notice of such as are most essential, that nothing may appear to be wanting in this treatise.



VITRUVIUS tells us, in the ninth chapter of his second book, that timber ought to be felled in autumn, or during the winter season, in the wane of the moon; for then the trees recover the vigour and solidity that in spring and summer was dispersed among their leaves and fruit. It will, moreover, be free from a certain moisture, very apt to engender worms, and rot it, which at that time will be consumed and dried up. It ought likewise to be cut but to the middle of the pith, and so left until it is thoroughly dry, that the moisture, the cause of putrefaction, may gradually distil and drop away.

WHEN fell'd, it must be laid in a proper place, where it may be shelter'd from the south fun, high winds, and rain. That of a spontaneous growth especially ought to be fully dried, and daubed over with cow-dung, to prevent its splitting. It should not be drawn through the dew, but removed rather in the afternoon; nor wrought when wet and damp, or very dry : the one being apt to cause rottenness, and the other to make clumsy work. Neither will it in less than three years be dry enough to be made use of in planks for the floors, windows, and doors.

THOSE therefore who are about to build, ought to be inform'd from men thoroughly acquainted with the nature of timber, that they may know which is fit for such and such uses, and which not.

IN the above-mention'd chapter VITRUVIUS gives many other useful directions, besides what other learned men have written upon that subject.



STONES are either natural, or artificially made by the industry of men. The former are taken out of quarries, and serve to make lime (of which more hereafter) and also to raise walls. Those of which walls are commonly made, are marble and hard stones, also called live stone; or soft, and tender.

MARBLE and live stone ought to be wrought as soon as they are taken out of the quarry, which then may be done with much more ease than after they have continued some time exposed to the air. But the softer kind must: be dug in summer, and placed under a proper shelter for the space of two years before they are used, that they may more gradually harden, being thus defended from high winds, rain, and frosts (especially when the nature of the stone is not well known, or if it be dug out of a place that never was open'd before) by which means they will be made much fitter to resist the inclemencies of the weather.

THE reason for keeping them so long is, that being sorted, those which have receiv'd damage, may be placed in the foundations; and the others, which have not been injured, should be used above ground: and thus they will last a long time.

THE stones artificially made are commonly called quadrelli, or bricks, from their shape. These ought to be made of a chalky, whitish, and soft earth, dug up in autumn, and temper' d in winter, that, in the spring following, it may the more conveniently be work'd up into bricks; always avoiding that earth that is over fat or sandy. But if necessity obliges to make them in the winter or summer time, they must carefully be cover'd during the former season with dry sand, and in the latter with straw. When made, they require a long time to dry; for which reason a good shelter is the most proper place, to cause the outside and inside to dry or harden equally, which can't be accomplished in less than two years.

AND as bricks are made either larger or smaller, according to the quality of the building, and their intended use; fo the antients made them larger for publick and great buildings than for small and private ones; and therefore holes ought to be made here and there through the larger, that they may dry and burn the better.



THERE are three forts of sand commonly found; pit, river, and sea sand. The best of all is pit sand, and is either black, white, red, or ash-colour'd; which last is a kind of earth calcined by subterraneous fires pent up in the mountains, and taken out of pits in Tuscany.

THEY also dig out of the earth in Terra di Lavoro, in the territories of Baia and Cuma, a sort of sand, called Pozzolana by VITRUVIUS, which immediately cements in the water, and makes buildings very strong. But long experience has shewn, that of all the several kinds of pit sand, the white is the worst. The bestst river sand is that which is found in rapid streams, and under water-falls, because it is most purged. Sea sand, although the worst, ought to be of a blackish colour, and shine like glass : that which is large grained, and nearest to the shore, is best. Pit sand, being fattest, makes, for that reason, the most tenacious cement, and is therefore employ'd in walls and long vaults; but it is apt to crack.

RIVER sand is very fit for covering and rough-casting of walls. Sea sand soon wets and soon dries, and wastes by reason of its salt, which makes it very unfit to sustain any considerable weight.

EVERY kind of sand will be good that feels crisp when handled, and, if laid upon white clothes, will neither stain or leave earth behind it. But that sand is bad, which, being mix'd with water, makes it turbid and dirty: As also such as has remain'd a long while exposed to the weather; for then it will contain so much earth and corrupt moisture, that it will be apt to produce shrubs and wild fig-trees, which are very prejudicial to buildings.


Of LIME, and of the method of working it into mortar.

THE stones of which lime is made, are either dug out of hills, or taken out of rivers. All those taken out of hills are good where dry, brittle, free from moisture, or the mixture of any substance, which being consumed by the fire, diminishes the stone. That lime will therefore therefore be best which is made of the most hard, solid, white stone, and which, being burnt, is left a third part lighter than the stone of which it was made.

THERE is also a spungy sort of stone, the lime of which is very good for covering and rough-casting of walls; likewise a scaly rugged stone, taken out of the hills of Padua, that makes an excellent lime for such buildings as are most exposed to the weather, or stand under water, because it immediately sets, grows hard, and is very lasting.

ALL stones taken out of the earth are much better to make lime of, than those which are collected; and rather taken from a shady moist pit, than from a dry one. The white are better than the brown, as being the most easily work'd. The pebbles found in rivers and rapid streams, are excellent for lime, and make very white neat work; therefore it is chiefly used in the rough-casting of walls. All stones, either dug out of the hills or rivers, burn quicker or slower, in proportion to the fire given them, but are generally calcined in fixty hours. When calcined, they must be wetted, in order to slack them; observing not to pour on the water all at once, but at several times, to prevent its burning before it be well-tempered, and afterwards must be laid in a moist shady place, only covering it lightly with sand, taking care not to mix any thing with it; and when used, the more it is work'd up with the sand, the better it will cement; except that made of a scaly stone, like that from Padua, because that must be used as soon as it is slacked, to prevent its burning and consuming away; it will otherwise be useless.

To make mortar, lime should be mix'd with sand in this proportion; three parts of pit sand to one of lime, and but two of sea or river sand to one of lime.



THE metals commonly employ'd in buildings, are iron, lead, and copper. Iron serves to make nails, hinges, bars, gates, bolts for fastenings, and such like works.

THERE is no iron any where found pure; nor any, when taken out of the earth, but must first be melted, and then purged of its dross by the fire, to make it fit for use. For then it will easily be made red-hot, will be soft enough to be wrought, and spread under the hammer; but cannot so easily be melted again, except it is put into a furnace made for that purpose: And if not well hammer'd when red-hot, it will burn and waste away.

IT is a sign the iron is good, if, when reduced into bars, you see the veins run streight and uninterrupted, and that the ends of the bars be clean and without dross: For these veins will shew that the iron is free from lumps and flaws; by the ends we may know the goodness of the middle; and, when wrought into square plates, or any other shape, if its sides are streight and even, we may conclude it is equally good in all its parts, as it has equally in every part endured the hammer.

MAGNIFICENT palaces, churches, towers, and other publick edifices, are generally covered with lead. The pipes and gutters to convey the water, are also made of the fame. It likewise serves to fasten the hinges and iron-work in the jambs of doors and windows. The three forts of lead usually found, are the white, black, and that of a colour between both, by some called ash-colour'd. The black is fo called, not because it is really such, but because it is intermix'd with some blackness; therefore the antients, to distinguish it from the white, gave it very properly that name. The white is much more perfect, and of greater value than the black. And the ash-colour'd holds the middle rank betwixt both.

LEAD is either taken out of the earth in a great mass, without any mixture, or in small, shining, blackish lumps; and is sometimes found sticking in small flakes to the rocks, to marble, and to stones. All the different forts melt very easily, because the heat of the fire liquifies it before it can be made red-hot; and if thrown into an extreme hot furnace, it will not preserve its substance, but be converted into litharge and dross. Of the three sorts the black is the softest and most weighty, and therefore will easily spread under the hammer. The white is harder and lighter. The ash-colour'd is much harder than the white, and is of a middle weight between both.

PUBLICK buildings are sometimes cover'd with copper; and the antients also made nails and cramps thereof, which were fix'd in the stone below, and to that above, to unite and tie them together, and prevent them from being pushed out of their place. And by means of these nails and cramps, a building, which can't possibly be made without a great number of pieces of stone, is fo join'd and fix'd together, that it appears to be one entire piece, and for the same reason is much stronger and more durable.

THESE nails and cramps were likewise made of iron; but the antients most commonly made them of copper, because it is less subject to rust, and consequently will last much longer. The Letters for inscriptions, that were placed in the frizes of buildings without, were made of copper; and history informs us, that the hundred famous gates of Babylon, and HERCULES' two pillars, eight cubits high, in the island of Gades, were also made of that metal.

THE best and most excellent copper is that which is extracted and purged from the ore by fire. If it is of a red colour, inclining to yellow, well-grained, and full of pores, we may then be pretty certain it is freed from dross.

COPPER will heat red-hot in the fire, like iron, and so liquify that it may be cast. If thrown into an extreme hot furnace, it will not endure the flames, but totally consume and waste away. Although it be hard, it will nevertheless bear the hammer, and may be wrought into very thin plates. The best method to preserve it is to dip it into tar; for tho' it does not rust like iron, yet it has a peculiar rust, called verdigrease, especially if it be touched with any sharp liquor.


Excerpted from The Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio. Copyright © 1965 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Four Books of Architecture 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mili68 More than 1 year ago
If you are interested in Architecture, you must know these writings from Piero della Gondola, or Andrea Palladio "sort of artistic name". These books tell us about the experience he had in designing and construction of buildings, such as his famous VILLAS; he describes how construction materials can be used, based in his own experience.